A big credit card balance can sneak up on the best of us and when it does, a balance transfer is definitely one option worth considering.
While transferring your balance to a new card with a lower rate could be a great way to save on interest and get a grip on your debt, it pays to know the pros and cons of balance transfers.
Here’s what balance transfers are good for… and, just as importantly, what they’re not.
Balance transfers are good for…
- Getting it together. If you have several credit or store cards, a balance transfer can be a smart way to consolidate your debts and pay less interest, so take a closer look at what’s possible.
- Slashing your interest. Most balance transfer offers come with a low introductory rate (even 0% p.a.), which can mean serious savings over the offer period (depending on what you’re currently paying).
- Transferring up to 80% of your credit limit. While all cards are different, you can often transfer balances from one or more cards up to a total of 80% of your new credit card’s approved limit.
- Encouraging you to pay off your debt. Because 0% and low interest rate offers only last for a set time – commonly 6-24 months – this can give you a reason to make the most of the low interest rate to get on top of your debt.
Balance transfers aren’t good for…
- Confirmed shopaholics. Keep in mind that the special balance transfer rate doesn’t apply to new purchases you make on your card. Instead, you’ll usually be charged a higher rate for these.
- Slow learners. It’s important to remember that once the introductory balance transfer offer ends, the interest you pay on any leftover balance will increase to the standard rate – this may be your new card’s variable purchase rate or cash advance rate.
- People who keep their old cards. Even if you transfer the entire balance from your other cards, this doesn’t mean the bank will close those accounts. You might want to cut up your old cards so you’re not tempted to use them.
- People who don’t make extra repayments. Even though you’re still only required to make the minimum repayment on your new balance transfer card, that’s not the point. Instead, you could approach your balance transfer as a good opportunity to take advantage of a low or 0% interest rate and focus on paying off your debt.
If you’re ready to check out balance transfers in more detail, see How you can make balance transfers work for you.